Dejounte Murray sounds off on ‘next steps’ for Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Five games was a long time. That’s how long the Atlanta Hawks (16-15) were without star guard Dejounte Murray. In that span, and amid a slew of other injuries to starters, the Hawks went 2-3 with their only wins coming against floundering teams in the rival Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls with Atlanta needing a buzzer-beating play from rookie AJ Griffin.

They found themselves in a similar situation against the upstart Orlando Magic who rallied from down 13 points in the fourth quarter to take a lead in the waning seconds.

Rather than the rookie, it was the big offseason acquisition, Murray, that stepped up.

He sank the game-winning free throws after Magic rookie phenom Paolo Banchero committed a silly foul with Murray shooting a fadeaway three from behind the backboard. The shot clanked harmlessly but Murray made Banchero and the Magic pay the ultimate price.

Atlanta Hawks need to find ‘consistency’, says Dejounte Murray

“We shouldn’t even be in that situation,” Murray told Hawks reporter Annie Finberg. “That’s showing where we got room to improve as a team as a whole. We can’t be in that situation…I’m happy about the win but I’m upset because we’re trying to grow something bigger.”

Murray finished with 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, and a pair of steals. He led the way with seven points in a fourth quarter that saw the Hawks get outscored 31-15 otherwise.

None of his production was as key as those free throws, however.

“When it’s time to be clutch, I’m ready for any moment against anybody. So, for me, that just is what it is.”

Making the moment that much more impressive, Murray is the Hawks’ third-leading clutch scorer – defined as within five points in the final five minutes – but entered the night shooting just 50% at the free throw line in those situations.

The Hawks are 7-6 in clutch games this season.

That gives them the 13th-best winning percentage in those moments at .538; an improvement over the .474 winning percentage (18-20 record) they posted last season.

“We can be dangerous,” Murray said of the Hawks’ potential. “We got to mature, we got to grow up now. We want to do big things. We don’t want to be a team that’s showing we can do it [and] then not show it. We want to be consistent so we can reach that next level. It’s not going to be easy but I really believe we can do it.”

Murray’s message has been consistent since he arrived this summer via trade. He has not always lived up to it with his on-court antics helping contribute to salt in the wound following a loss to the Houston Rockets earlier in the year.

But the Hawks will go as he and Trae Young – who was also critical of the team’s performance down the stretch – go so this consistent message is only as valid as his actions.

They have to keep it going.

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The Hawks are idle before hosting the Bulls on Wednesday potentially setting them up to stack another win at a crucial point in the season.